Seeing Below the Ice Workshop

With some of the strongest climate change signals already underway in the polar regions, scientists will meet in Hobart, Australia, from October 22-25 2012 to develop the first strategy to peer beneath Antarctic ice and observe environmental and ecosystem shifts caused by a warming global ocean.

When complete, the proposed network of instruments, profilers and sensors will shed light on a significant science blind spot – how quickly is the sub-ice ocean warming?

The Hobart workshop, Seeing Below the Ice, is being led by the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), an international secretariat based at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS). The workshop is being sponsored principally by CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship.

Southern Ocean specialist and SOOS Scientific Steering Committee member Dr Anna Wåhlin (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) said monitoring the waters  in the Antarctic sea-ice zone has been out of the reach of science until very recently.

Using Arctic research expertise 

Although the workshop has an Antarctic focus, Dr Wåhlin said it will draw on the expertise of Arctic research where efforts to observe the ocean are far more advanced.

“Accelerating changes in the Antarctic sea-ice zone and to the major ice sheets have far-reaching effects through their impact on global sea-level rise and warming rates.

“However, the polar oceans under ice are the least understood and most poorly monitored physical systems on the planet, and a gap in the Global Climate Observing System,” Dr Wåhlin said.

More than 50 Southern Ocean scientists from 20 institutions around the world will attend the four-day workshop at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart from October 22-25.


Lack of observations

The focus of Seeing Below the Ice is on the ocean between the northern boundary of the winter sea-ice edge, varying between 60˚S -70˚S, and the Antarctic coast and consider interactions between the ocean and both sea ice and glacial ice.

Many of the key scientific questions concerning the role of high latitude ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions in the climate system remain unanswered because of a paucity of observations.

New technologies in under-ice robotic Argo profilers, gliders, moored instruments and satellite sensors now allow such measurements to be made. 

The goal of the workshop is to develop a strategy for sustained observations of the Antarctic sea-ice zone. The strategy will include observations needed for the study of interactions between the ocean and both sea ice and glacial ice, including the sub-ice-shelf cavity and deep troughs through which warm ocean waters access the shelf region.

While the focus is on the Antarctic, experts from the Arctic community will be invited to extend the benefit from experience gained there, where efforts to measure the ocean beneath the sea ice are more advanced.

Download 'Seeing Below the Ice' Workshop Program

Download audio interviews with workshop participants (Mark Hindell, Steve Rintoul, Bronte Tilbrook).

View television news segment featuring Workshop participants (Alberto Naveira Garabato and Steve Rintoul).

Dr Steve Rintoul (ACE CRC and SOOS Scientific Steering Committee member) discusses new technologies used to measure changes in the Southern Ocean.

Download Acoustic Navigation & Communications for High-latitude Ocean Research (ANCHOR) Report from an international workshop sponsored by NSF in 2006.

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